Screengrab: Olympics Averse? Try Marilyn, Garland or Hitch



from Richard Lutz


It’s official. This is the best tv Olympics ever. And that from an international scientific survey carried out by the BBC. Its methodology  is beyond criticism.  It is based on  billions of vox pop interviews where anything even smelling of faint criticism is chucked on the editing floor.

But if you have had enough of 6-a-side handball, mixed sex Trivial Pursuits or downhill  hide and seek, you can default  on to this week’s tv films.

Here goes:

For goodhearted treacly  fun, there is always Meet Me in St Louis (Thurs; 12.55, Ch4).  It was first shown in 1944 when the Allies could finally say they had the upper hand in the war and this is a movie to instil an initial sense of optomism and goodwill in the world (well, America) after half a decade of blood.

Judy Garland sings Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas as she pines for St Louis when her dad says they are moving to bad old New York in 1904. She is handily directed by  Vincent Minnelli  who met the singer on set and married her- they are the parents of Liza Minnelli. The film  envelops you in a a syrupy tear-welling sense of  Home and The Hearth. Other songs include Little Brown Jug and The Trolley Song. See it with your gran.

There is a pair  of Marilyn Monroe movies about: Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (Sun; 11.oo, Film4) and How to Marry A Millionaire (Mon; 13.10, Ch4). It is early fifties fluff with a tint of flesh  and can well take your mind off the hammerthrow and superheavyweight boxing finals.

One of the best war films is around.  Thin Red Line (Sun; 22.15, Sky Atlantic) by  the US’s top creative director Terrance Mallick stars John Cusack and Nick Nolte trying to take Guadalcanal Island from the Japanese. It is bloody, cruel and I would say pretty accurate when it comes to the thin line between courage and cowardice. Nick Nolte shines as the manic general who knows he has only one chance to go down in history and his gutwrenching diatribe to Cusack mid-battle is grim, macho and oddly poignant. Mallick has never made a bad film.

Another hard core winner is Winter’s Bone (Mon; 18.15, Sky Movies Indie). I have written about this gem before. But it is worth mentioning because it graphically portrays hardscrabble  life in the Appalachians. It is picaresque and grim and leaves you in shock with its uncompromising peek into the methadrine-drenched poverty of that part of the States. It is not Woody Allen.

And what of British films as Britain celebrates it is the best when it comes to tv Olympics (according to the BBC scientific study as above)? There are a trio Alfred Hitchcock films. But is he English or Yank? My say  is he is certifiably bonkers Brit with his obsessions (mostly blonde) and his great capacity to frighten you when nothing happens.

Let’s begin with Rear Window (Mon; 16.40, Film4) where James Stewart almost convinces you it is borderline OK to be a Peeping Tom as he thinks he sees a murder  in a flat across an apartment block courtyard; Psycho (Fri; 23.00, ITV3) which  will turn your hair white to start your weekend right; and The Birds (Sat, Aug 10; 2.40am, ITV1) where a normal couple get pecked to hell by…you guessed it…. them birds. Where did Hitchcock get his whacko ideas from?